Alexander Semin had 40 goals in 2009-10, but only 21 this past season. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
The NHL’s annual free agent frenzy has died down considerably, yet there are still a number of talents available to help a team. Who are the best of the remaining bunch (excluding Teemu Selanne, who will re-sign with Anaheim or retire)? That’s the focus of this week’s THN.com Top 10:
Nobody played more regular season games last year than the 27-year-old Winnik, who appeared in 84 contests after being traded from Colorado to San Jose in February. He’s a five-year NHL veteran who can boost a team’s penalty-killing unit.
If you looked at Rolston’s four goals and nine points in his first 49 games with the Islanders last season, you might think the 39-year-old didn’t have much left in the tank. But Rolston looked reborn after he was traded to Boston, posting 12 assists and 15 points in 21 games. A contender looking for Cup-winning experience might want to take a chance on him in limited minutes.
The 24-year-old Mueller scored 22 goals for Phoenix in his rookie year of 2007-08, but has since struggled with concussion woes. He appeared in just 32 games last year, but finished relatively healthy and amassed seven goals and 16 points. A risky, but intriguing gamble.
He’d become an afterthought in the minds of many people when he left the NHL to play in his native Czech Republic and the Kontinental League in 2010-11, but Sykora converted a training camp tryout with the Devils last fall into a one-year, $650,000 contract – and more importantly, the 35-year-old scored 21 goals and 44 points in 82 games. He’s no long-term solution to a team’s offensive woes, but Sykora could provide a spark to a contender looking for assistance on the wing.
The well-traveled two-way pivot has played for nine NHL teams, including the Lightning and Sharks, for whom he combined to post 21 assists and 25 points last season. His wife’s battle with cancer is clearly his first priority, but if things work out for the best, the 31-year-old Moore has enough speed and savvy to be a solid contributor.
With most top defensemen signed, Hannan represents the best combination of blueline experience and skill left. The 33-year-old isn’t the force he once was, but he nonetheless averaged 20:21 of ice time for Calgary last season.
He averaged just 14:05 of ice time and 20.7 shifts with St. Louis in 2011-12, but Arnott’s experience and calming influence on a mercurial, young Blues team should not be undervalued. He’ll be 38 in October and is a virtual certainty to miss a handful of games each year, but Arnott still scored 17 goals and 34 points. He has something to offer a contender that can use him sparingly.
Given the spinal cord damage that limited him to just four NHL games in 2010-11, it’s somewhat of a miracle Langkow returned to full-time duty last season (where he scored 11 goals and 30 points in 73 games for Phoenix). The 35-year-old could be an asset to a team that knows not to push him far beyond the 15:45 he averaged last year.
Everyone knows Doan’s first choice is to remain with the Coyotes organization – the only one he’s known in his 16 NHL seasons – but the fact he hasn’t re-signed with Phoenix tells you all you need to know about that franchise’s perilous situation. It isn’t a question of what team could use the 35-year-old’s combination of low-maintenance leadership and on-ice tenacity (that’s made him a 20-goal-scorer in 11 of the past 12 seasons) – it’s a question of what team couldn’t. The answer is none.
His reputation has taken a serious beating of late, but there’s little doubt a motivated Semin could inject new life into a team’s offense. His contract demands (in terms of both money and length of deal) has and will continue to dictate interest levels from teams – and if he’s ready for unsolicited advice, he should listen to calls to sign a short-term, incentive-laden contract to re-establish himself as a force and cash in on a larger payday later.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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